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Following this week's Nintendo Switch events, we now know that The Big N's new home/portable console will be ready to roll on March 3. But while Nintendo has finally answered a lot of our questions concerning the new hardware and its offerings, we're still left with a lot of question marks hanging over our heads. Call it a growing sense of deja vu or just good old-fashioned worry but, either way, not all of us are yet sold on the Switch. Here are our top five concerns.
The Launch Lineup
The one argument we keep seeing slung around the internet is that it's the holiday season, not the launch window, that will make or break a console. While we agree that the biggest shopping days of the year can help make up for a lackluster launch, those launches aren't nearly a full year out from said holiday season. So far, Nintendo has only announced a handful of launch titles for the Switch, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2 Switch, and a new Bomberman game. After that, we've got a remake of the Wii U Mario Kart dropping in April, then a hefty wait until titles like Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey drop.
The rest of the bigger titles shown off by Nintendo so far have had so little information attached to them that we doubt they'll make it out in 2017. That being the case, the Switch is looking at a mighty weak launch window and a calm rest of the year. Yes, there are some big games peppered in there, but we hoped Nintendo would have learned by now that you have to keep the content flowing. We want to hold out hope that Nintendo has a few aces up their sleeve, but wouldn't you roll those out during your big reveal events if there was even a slim chance they'd arrive during year one?
We don't want to jinx the Switch right off the bat but, while we like the games we've seen so far, we can't help but feel like we're seeing a Wii U scenario all over again.
Nintendo has never really gotten the hang of online gaming, only starting to make DLC a part of their ecosystem in the last couple of years. Our concern when it comes to their plans for the Switch is that they're trying to parody companies like Microsoft and Sony without actually providing the goods to go along with the added price tag. To be clear, we're not arguing with Nintendo deciding to have for-pay online services with the Switch, we just aren't convinced that they're offering much to make that added cost worth the investment. The only saving grace here is that they have not yet revealed a price point for the for-pay online service, which won't actually roll out until this fall. If it seems reasonable, we'll have less reason to fret.
As of now, though, it's not looking too good. For starters, Nintendo has announced that their service will provide one free NES or SNES game per month, though they will only be available for said month. When services like Plus and Gold are offering four to six games that you get to keep either permanently or while subscribed, it's hard to get excited for Nintendo's monthly rental.
Also, consoles like the Xbox One and PS4 are made to be online machines. Almost every game has online features, there are tons of apps and services that require online usage, and they also offer things like cloud save backup and all sorts of social features. Nintendo's announced games don't really seem like online powerhouses, and their social offerings, like chat, will be handled through a companion app. In other words, they want people to pay for access to an app on their phone that lets them chat while playing Nintendo games, and that just seems insane.
The Switch's launch timing is another cause for concern, as it's starting to feel less like a fully baked launch and more like a desperate attempt to create a revenue flow. This all ties into the previous two items on the list. The Switch currently has a lackluster launch window and a light 2017. Yes, more games may be announced between now and the holidays but, again, if they were that worthy of hype, we imagine Nintendo would have rolled them out already.
Also, their online features won't come at a cost until the fall. We feel like that has less to do with giving folks a chance to experience their online features gratis for a limited time and more to do with the fact that, one, they don't have much worth charging for just yet and, two, they don't appear to have a clear handle on what they even want to do with online/social features. If Nintendo could have afforded to hold off until holiday 2017 to launch the Switch, we have a feeling most of our concerns would be moot. That's when the majority of their announced games will actually be ready for launch and that's when they hope to have something worth showing off online. The Switch just doesn't feel ready for prime time yet and we're worried a lot of conversations between now and the fall concerning the machine will be little more than, "But Zelda was amazing, right?"
A Near Total Lack of Storage
Again, this is just one of those things that makes us feel like Nintendo has no idea what gamers need or want these days. It was announced that the Switch will have just 32GB of on-board memory, with expansion offered via micro SD card. Zelda alone will fill up half of that space if you want to go digital, while some games launching on competitive consoles take up literally double the real estate on a hard drive. Sure, you can add a few hundred GB to your Switch with a card but, in an age where 2TB consoles are available elsewhere, we can't help but feel like Nintendo is dropping the ball when it comes to storage.
The Switch games will come on carts, which is great, but Nintendo hasn't announced how DLC, updates or save files will be handled. We doubt many big games will have a lot of leftover space for those types of things, which means they have to go somewhere. In other words, we're not sure even more casual gamers will make it through a year with the Switch without running into some serious storage issues.
We're totally cool with the Switch being priced at $300. For what it offers out of the box, that seems like a fair ballpark to be playing in. What we're not cool with, though, is how expensive peripherals and replacement items will be.
We begin with the Switch Dock, which Nintendo has confirmed does nothing more than keep the Switch charged and displaying on your TV. In other words, it's a neat stand that has two cords and that's about it. If yours ever gets damaged or you want to set up a Dock in more than one room, you're going to need to fork over $90. That means that Nintendo wants you to pay a third of what the entire Switch console costs for what basically amounts to a charger and an HDMI cable.
Those tiny Joy-Con controllers are neat and all, but we're not sure they are $49.99 apiece "neat," nor $80 for a pair "neat." They have a lot of cool functionality built in, but that just seems like an awful lot of money for half of a controller.
Finally, there's the Pro Controller, the Switch peripheral that looks like it will be mandatory for anyone with normal human hands who plans on playing the machine for an extended period of time. That controller will set you back $69.99, which is $10 more expensive than standard controllers from the competition.
Here's hoping some third parties offer their own peripherals with a little less sticker shock attached.